BIRN Conference Highlights War Crimes Cooperation Problems

Cooperation on war crimes cases between prosecutors’ offices in former Yugoslav countries happens rarely despite agreements between the states, said participants at a major regional conference organised by BIRN.

Regional cooperation between prosecutors’ offices in former Yugoslav countries is beset by problems, despite the protocols that states have signed agreeing to collaborate on war crimes cases, said speakers at a conference organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

“The cooperation exists in theory, but it is non-existent in practice,” Aleksandar Kontic, legal officer at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, told the conference entitled ‘After the ICTY: Regional Cooperation, Accountability, Truth and Justice in the Former Yugoslavia’.

Kontic said that the chief prosecutor at the Hague court, Serge Brammertz, has reported countries in the region to UN Security Council on several occasions due to their non-cooperation on war crime cases.

He also suggested that part of the problem was that all countries in the region still divide suspects into two categories – “our heroes and their criminals”.

The acting chief prosecutor at the Bosnian state prosecution, Gordana Tadic, said her institution wants to improve regional cooperation because some of the suspects being sought for prosecution in Bosnia and Herzegovina are living in Serbia and Croatia.

“It is important for war crime perpetrators not to remain unpunished no matter where they are,” Tadic said.

In 2013, the prosecutor’s offices of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia signed protocols enabling the free exchange of war crime cases, investigations and case documents. Despite the fact that several cases have been exchanged and processed, very few against high-ranking suspects have been successfully transferred to neighbouring countries’ jurisdictions, while numerous suspects have never been arrested or had cases brought against them.

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